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Explore over 100 virtual events at the 10th annual Wisconsin Science Festival

September 29, 2020

From the novel coronavirus to food sciences, the 2020 Wisconsin Science Festival, held Oct. 15-18, will feature more than 100 virtual events — with a few opportunities to get out (safely) with others.

Activities will include hands-on science experiments, live Q&A with scientists, demonstrations, performances, podcasts, behind-the-scenes tours and more — along with some up-to-the-minute information about what researchers in Wisconsin are learning about COVID-19.

Most venues across the state are offering online or at-home events. Teachers and school districts are encouraged to preregister to participate in virtual field trip live sessions with scientists covering a wide variety of topics, including learning how geologists excavate a dinosaur bone, how microscopists detect cancer cells, how material scientists can help you create a simple device at home to make electricity, what it’s like to actually be a scientist, and more.

“Making science accessible and understandable is critically important, especially now, given the challenges we are facing,” says Eric Wilcots, dean of the College of Letters & Science at UW–Madison. “The Wisconsin Science Festival is a fantastic way to demonstrate just how amazing — and fun — scientific exploration and discovery can be. I am thrilled to think that we may reach more people than ever before, through this year’s online format. All it takes is a spark.”

The festival will kick off with Big Ideas for Busy People: Futurescape, a fast-paced event featuring five-minute talks from some of UW–Madison’s biggest brains. The Big Ideas event has been the festival’s most popular event in the past 10 years, and this year’s speakers will look ahead and share what their research focus might be like 10 years from now.

“I think it’s huge to start engaging students at an early age and get them excited about science,” says Sam Mulrooney, program manager for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). “It’s everywhere in our world and it’s becoming increasingly more important as we deal with some of these issues that our world is facing nowadays. To illuminate to students at a young age that science is for them and to help them see how it could impact not only their future but their career pathways is huge.”

Laura Heisler, director of the festival and programming for WARF and the Morgridge Institute for Research, says the festival is the perfect venue to tackle the big issues, not only of the day but of the future as well.

With the 10th year of the festival being held virtually, organizers are excited to engage with a wider variety of youth now that the barrier of transportation is no longer an obstacle.

“I am most excited about the statewide engagement because we’re partnered with all these statewide organizations that are finding ways to connect with the public around science even during these trying times,” Heisler says. “We want to celebrate that people are being really creative and bringing their science forward in this really unusual circumstance.”

Check the Wisconsin Science Festival website for more detailed information about the full festival schedule.

Highlighted events include:

Big Ideas for Busy People: Futurescape

This popular, fast-paced event featuring five-minute talks from some of UW–Madison’s biggest brains is back! Since the festival is now celebrating its 10th year, this year’s edition focuses on the future of research and what our researchers’ projects will look like in the next decade.

Details: Thursday, October 15, 5:00 p.m. Held virtually.

Science on the Square

Join the festival’s mascot, Beesly, and her friends at Madison Central Business Improvement District for a fun and relaxing evening online exploring the science, technology, engineering, art and math involved in the wonderful places in downtown Madison. Try your hand at science-themed trivia questions, participate in fun challenges, and most importantly, meet some of the great businesses who bring these amazing products and services to our community.

Details: Friday, October 16, 6:00 p.m. Held virtually.

Take a virtual science road trip through Wisconsin!

Experience dozens of interactive, hands-on exploration stations that feature STEM activities ranging from virtual reality to health and medicine — including some emerging information on COVID-19, chemistry, astrobotany and more. “It’s a great way for people across Wisconsin to choose their own adventure,” says Heisler.

Details: Thursday-Sunday October 15-18, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Held virtually, with many activities accessible all hours.

Until the End of Time (Brian Greene) & Black Hole Survival Guide (Janna Levin)

Physicists Brian Greene and Janna Levin discuss their new books “Until the End of Time” and “Black Hole Survival Guide” with Eric Wilcots, dean of the College of Letters & Science and professor of astronomy. Join the event at: Before the event begins, you will see a countdown and the event image.

Details: Saturday, October 17, 7:00 p.m. Held virtually.

Stand Up Science with Shane Mauss

2 Comedians + 2 Scientists = Here We Are Podcast LIVE!

Here We Are is a science podcast where, over the last six years, comedian Shane Mauss has been interviewing scientists each week about the meanings of life while touring as a comedian. His most recent tour, Stand Up Science, which COVID-19 has put on hold, features two comedians and two scientists on every show. Now, just for his home state, he is doing a rare virtual episode of Here We Are so people can watch live, join in the comments, and ask questions of their own. This special episode will chat all about the science of screen time, phone use, and the internet.

Details: Saturday, October 17, 8:30 p.m. Held virtually.